Book Review: 1222 by Anne Holt

13547835Title: 1222
Author: Anne Holt
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Publisher: Scribner, S&S
Publication Date: December 27th 2011
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

From Norway’s bestselling female crime writer comes a suspenseful locked-room mystery set in an isolated hotel in Norway, where guests stranded during a monumental snowstorm start turning up dead. A TRAIN ON ITS WAY to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning. With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralysed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had travelled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself. Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.

1222 is a novel written by Anne Holt, one of the most prolific and bestselling crime writers from Norway. While I had never heard of Anne Holt of her series about Hanne Wilhelmsen before, this book had me intrigued enough to check on her impressive backlist and credentials. While I won’t rule out reading more of her books, I’m not all too hyped. I can see why people enjoy her writing, I’m just not sure if it’s for me.

The book features protagonist Hanne Wilhelmsen, who isn’t your typical main character. She’s bound to a wheelchair because she’s paralyzed from the waist down, something which happened during a shooting approximately four years ago. On top of that, she uses her paralyzis to keep other people at a distance. While it was hard to like Hanne from the start, she gradually grew on me. She befriends a loner boy who reminds her of herself when she was younger, indicating she’s been a loner her entire life. She also befriends a doctor with dwarfism, but tends to stay away from “regular” people which I thought was strange. Why does she purposely go seek out people who are “different” as well? Notice how I use these terms here, I’m not trying to imply anything, but I find it odd the author chooses to stick those who are “different” together based solely on the fact they’re different. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well, but it seems like the only reason why Hanne befriended the doctor with dwarfism is just that – because he has dwarfism. Not because she likes his personality, thinks he’s a nice person or all that, but because he has dwarfism. I thought that was strangely judgemental and perhaps not a good call.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the setting. The descriptions add to the story without being overwhelming. I also liked Hanne’s personality simply because it was different, and she wasn’t a generic character. The plot itself is pretty straight-forward though. A train crashes and survivors are brought to a nearby hotel, where they stay the night. A snow storms comes and they’re stuck in there a little longer. A person is found murdered. Former inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen starts an investigation, helped by some of the people also on board of the train. Another murder happens.

The story is pretty straightforward for the first half of the book, but the author uses so many clichés that I had to keep myself from rolling my eyes at times. I had solved the murders way before the main character did, which isn’t a good sign. There’s also an additional mystery involving trained security who were present on the train and now keep the upper floor of the hotel to themselves. Who are they? Why were they on the train? The explanation at the end is confusing and far-fetched to say the least, and doesn’t add to the story.

I’ve heard some people rave about this book, while others are less than impressed. I like to keep the ball in the middle. The writing itself is solid, if not for the plot flaws and some of the obvious plot twists. The author knows her protagonist well, but fails to include much plot otherwise. The ending was a bit cheesy and difficult to understand, and I felt like it fell short. This book is the eight book in a series about detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, but reads well enough as a stand-alone. Perhaps if I’d read the previous books, I would’ve started to like the main character sooner, but to me, Hanne Wilhelmsen and her lonely, anti-hero personality never seemed the problem – the plot was. It was too obvious and see-through and let me feeling a tad bit disappointed. Good for a long road trip, or to read on a plane to Norway, or on a cold winter evening, but nothing world-changing.

1222 is a nice book for locked-room mysteries like “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, except that it pales in comparison to this classic mystery novel. It’s a decent book with an interesting protagonist, but the plot is unconvincing. Read at your own risk.

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